“Going Off Script” with Your Education

25 Apr

If I’m remembering my freshman orientation correctly, we were all given pre-generated course schedules, quickly introduced to UAccess, and then told to change our schedule around however we like. Well, at first, that’s great! So much power! It’s our first real opportunity to make our own decisions and finally have some say in how we spend our academic lives. All good things for sure. However, if I am in fact remembering orientation correctly, I was also very confused, definitely on the brink of heat exhaustion, and so overloaded with information that I didn’t even know how to start. I think I ended up halfheartedly scrolling through some courses, swapping one gen-ed out for another, and then calling it a day. The result? A huge block of core classes with some pretty random gen-eds sprinkled in (at very inconvenient times of the day, might I add). It is only when you realize you have six straight hours of pre-calculus, English, and chemistry (don’t forget the lab!), that you realize you probably should have rearranged a few things for the sake of your sanity.

Making your perfect schedule is easy, said no freshman ever. It’s true. Priority registration can be a frustrating time. Maybe all the courses that you so carefully selected end up being closed by the time you register. Or maybe the only section available is at 8:00am and you don’t really enjoy taking economics with your morning coffee. Such are the qualms of a first year Wildcat. The good news? As you move up in the “registration food chain,” the more options and flexibility you will have with your schedule. Your job is to make sure you take advantage of it!

By now you have had a couple rounds of registration completely on your own. No pre-made schedule. Just you, UAccess, and your ability to strategize how much time you will need to get from Harvill to Modern Languages in time for your next class. Crafting the perfect schedule is an art form, really. But carefully selecting your classes isn’t all about convenience. It’s an opportunity to personalize your education!

There are 4 key components to individualizing your college career:

1. Shop Around.

Take some time to get to know UAccess. If your skills are only at “basic survival” so far, now is the time to familiarize yourself with all the different features of your main registration tool. Once you know all the different ways to filter your search, you can hone it to your specific interests, degree requirements, and preferred time frames.

Make sure to use your other main resource: YOUR PEERS. Your ears should be perking up every time you hear that someone is enjoying a class. Ask them about it! Why do they like about it? What’s the study load like? How’s the instructor’s teaching style? If all their answers sound good to you (and you trust the person’s judgement), why not try it out yourself?

For the most part, I only knew my most interesting classes existed because of word of mouth. We can easily get limited by our declared major when it comes to searching for classes, so it’s a great idea to ask people outside your college (especially upperclassmen). The good classes tend to fill up quick, so start asking around…

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2. Know Yourself..

Know when you are most likely to be alert, productive, and motivatedThen make sure to apply that to your schedule! I know. I know. Again, easier said than done. Sometimes there is just no getting around an inconvenient schedule, but being mindful of your personal (and biological needs–you know, food, water, sleep) is a big step in taking an active part in your life, rather than remaining bound to your academic demands alone.

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Another thing to keep in mind is that while creating a well-timed schedule is important, do not fall victim to convenience either! If you have been eyeing a really cool sounding course for a couple semesters now, (but it’s always at four in the afternoon), don’t miss out on it just because it’s at a less than ideal time! Balance isn’t about equality in every area of your life. It’s about weighing the costs and benefits, and carrying out your priorities accordingly.

3. Go Off Script.

Tools like Degree Search and Smart Planner are great for creating your four-year plan as they offer a general overview of your coursework and degree requirements. However, much like that schedule you were handed at your orientation, these are only suggested plans. You can look at them kind of like degree templates. The structure and relative timeline of your core classes (i.e. the required courses for your degree) are included, but when it comes to upper division credits, electives, and which semesters you take them, that’s pretty much up to you!

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4. Get Creative

Did you know that you can invent your own minor? Not every degree requires a declared minor, but if that’s the case, it doesn’t have to be a chore! It can actually be a great chance to take classes outside your major and be a little crafty with your education. These are called Thematic Minors.

The process for declaring a thematic minor is fairly simple. All you have to do is create a proposal that outlines courses from two or more subject areas and how they apply to a common theme. This is then approved by your advisor or college.  For instance, I was able to blend my nursing prerequisite courses with the coursework I had already completed for a linguistic minor. The result? I declared a thematic minor in biolinguistics. Fancy, huh? It’s a pretty cool way to take classes that seemingly are “just for fun,” and also get credit for them!

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The beauty of degree-seeking is that as long as you complete your degree requirements, the rest is up to you! You can explore other fields of study, gain experience through an internship, or even take up a fitness class. Take every opportunity to put yourself into your eduction and add in aspects to your education that are going to motivate and excite you.  That way, when you look at your four year plan, it’s not “I have to take another Tier II INDV,” it’s “I get to take a class on Werewolves and Vampires!”

 

–Franny

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